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The benefits of student exchange

When you’re at university it can be hard to look past the pile of homework stacking up on your desk. With that said, it’s important to make sure that you don’t get so caught up that you miss out on the amazing opportunities that your uni can provide outside your campus gates — even outside Australia! Universities offer excellent opportunities to experience life and learning in another country through student exchange programs. More and more students are participating in these programs every year, leaving Australia for one or two semesters while continuing on with studies that contribute to their degree in another country. And it’s not hard to see why these students are taking advantage of the programs when you think of the benefits they offer…

Some of the benefits:

  • You get to experience life in another country: Exchange allows you to experience what it is like to live and learn in another country, which, for many, is an eye-opening, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Plus, you can travel in the semester breaks, so you have the chance to rid yourself of the travel bug and have some fun before you start working full time.
  • Expand your language skill: While most students tend to choose countries where English is widely spoken and classes are taught in English, exchange provides budding linguists with an opportunity to immerse themselves in another language and develop their skills in a foreign study environment.
  • Educational benefits: Exchange enables you to add to the knowledge that you are learning in your Australian course by trying new specialisations and learning in a different cultural context.
  • Looks great on your résumé: Life experience? You’ll have a truckload once you return from a student exchange. The skills and attributes that you will gain studying overseas, the new perspective that you will gain and your willingness to put yourself outside your comfort zone will look great to future employers and will serve you well in all aspects of your life.
  • It won’t cost the earth: Exchange programs are really just that — an opportunity to exchange your place at uni with someone from another country. You will continue to pay your standard fees to your institution and your overseas studies will contribute towards your degree (take care not to confuse exchange with study abroad, where the opposite is often true). Airfares, accommodation and spending money will cost you, but institutions have a range of exchange scholarships and grants that can help you to cover these costs.

Getting started:

  • Make sure you approach your institution’s international exchange office and apply early (at least six months in advance) because exchange programs are highly competitive and may take some time to organise due to the approvals required from both institutions and the timetabling that must occur.
  • Research your exchange destinations carefully (you can view these on your institution’s website). Your options may seem overwhelming at first, so it is important to narrow them down to a just a few institutions according to the countries you are interested in, the language in which classes are held and the courses offered. You will most likely need to pick more than one potential exchange institution in case the exchange office cannot secure your first preference.
  • Exchange is not your only option; you may also want to consider a study abroad program, a research exchange program, short courses, international internships, international volunteering or studying at an overseas campus of your institution.
  • Once you have been accepted you can apply for exchange grants and scholarships, book your flights, apply for visas and organise your accommodation (your exchange institution will help with this).

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